I have been challenging myself.
Not one to ever write down a single note while cooking, I have begun to transcribe my concoctions in order to share some recipe inspiration with you.
The first thing I noticed? I use a lot of ingredients, and there are a lot of steps. Probably too much of both, but I like to use what I have on hand, and I am more about plug-and-play recipe templates than I am about perfection.
As I attempt to straddle the line between surefire recipe and one with enough wiggle room for play and substitutions, I am starting with a dish that addresses both challenges.
Inspiration started in the garden, as it usually does.
First chive blossoms, then garlic scapes, mint, and parsley.
I soon had pasta on the mind.
Then I started to think about using some za’atar, a Middle Eastern blend of ancient spices. The one I have includes sumac berries, marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, white sesame seeds and a bit of Himalayan pink salt. (Here’s a recipe to make your own.)
Eventually, it all came together…
Creamy Za’atar Spring Pasta
Sauce + Pasta:
½ cup Cauliflower Florets
1 cup White Potatoes
4 cloves of Garlic
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 – 2 T Hummus or Tahini
Salt + Pepper to taste
(optional) Spoonful of Arrowroot Powder
12 – 16 oz Pasta (I used 12 oz gluten free pasta)
- Chop the cauliflower and potatoes into roughly the same size.
- Boil together until tender.
- Place the garlic, lemon, and hummus/tahini in a blender.
- Add boiled cauliflower and potatoes, plus 1 cup of the water they were cooked in.
- Blend everything until smooth (don’t overdo it!), adding salt + pepper + arrowroot as preferred.
- Sauce should be creamy and similar to texture of alfredo. Keep warm until pasta is cooked.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserve about a cup of cooking liquid.
- Toss pasta and sauce (you may not need all of the sauce). If necessary, add some of the reserved liquid to thin out sauce.
½ Red Onion
½ Bell Pepper (any color)
2 t Za’atar
Splash of olive oil
½ White Onion
1 Celery Rib
½ C Assorted Fresh Olives
¼ C Garlic Scapes (substitute 2 cloves garlic)
Handful of Spinach
Option #1: Roast some of the vegetables, sauté the rest, then mix.
- Slice the red onion, bell pepper, and carrot to similar thicknesses (mine were about ½ inch). Sprinkle with 1 t of za’atar.
- Roast in the oven at 400° for 15 – 20 minutes.
- While roasting, dice up the white onion, celery rib, fresh olives, and garlic scapes really well. Rough chop the spinach.
- Heat a wide pan over medium high, add olive oil.
- Add the onion and celery, let them cook down a bit.
- When onion is nearly translucent, add the olives and scapes. Give them another few minutes to become fragrant.
- When the roasted veg are done, add a bit more oil to the sauté pan and throw them in. Now is a good time to season with salt, pepper, and more za’atar.
- Add the chopped spinach at the very end, cooking just enough to wilt it down.
Option #2: Sauté all the vegetables together.
Skip the roasting part and add the red onion, bell pepper, and carrots to the white onion and celery mix. Give the veg a bit more time to cook down in this case – the rest of the steps are the same.
Garnishes (all optional):
COMPLETE THE PLATE
- Add half of the vegetable mixture to the sauced pasta and mix well.
- Serve the pasta, adding some of the remaining veg on top (this way it doesn’t get lost in the sauce, thus preserving some textures and flavors).
- Garnish as you see fit.
Keep in mind that most of this is merely a suggestion. You could mix everything together, add a whole mess of different vegetables, and it would still taste damn good. The foundation here is the sauce, za’atar, olives, and fresh herbs and lemon. The rest can be suited to your tastes.
The sauce thickens as it cools, so this is best served hot. I would say there are 3 – 4 decent sized portions, depending on how much pasta you use and if there’s any other dishes at the meal.
Hopefully there was something in there to inspire you, and I promise the next recipe will be far simpler. The thing I have realized about plant-based/gluten free pasta dishes, however, is that the more techniques, ingredients, flavors and textures that you throw at them – the more satisfying the end product will be.